The linguistic imperialism of neoliberal empire

Zuletzt aktualisiert: 27 Sep 2009

Department of International Language Studies and Computational
Linguistics, Copenhagen Business School,
DOI: 10.1080/15427580701696886

Published in: journal Critical Inquiry in Language Studies, Volume 5,
Issue 1 January 2008 , pages 1 - 43 [Routledge]

The article explores the transition from the linguistic imperialism of
the colonial and postcolonial ages to the increasingly dominant role of
English as a neoimperial language. It analyzes 'global' English as a key
dimension of the U.S. empire. U.S. expansionism is a fundamental
principle of the foreign policy of the United States that can be traced
back over two centuries. Linguistic imperialism and neoimperialism are
exemplified at the micro and macro levels, and some key defining traits
explored, as are cultural and institutional links between the United
Kingdom and the United States, and the role of foundations in promoting
'world' English. Whereas many parts of the world have experienced a
longstanding engagement with English, the use of English in continental
Europe has expanded markedly in recent years, as a result of many
strands of globalization and European integration. Some ongoing tensions
in language policy in Europe, and symptoms of complicity in accepting
linguistic hegemony, are explored. Valid analysis of the role of
language in corporate-driven globalization requires theory-building that
situates discourses and cultural politics in the material realities of
neoimperial market pressures. A plea is made for more active language
policy formation to strengthen ongoing efforts to maintain linguistic
diversity worldwide.
* 1The article builds on a keynote lecture at the conference ‘Dialogue
under occupation. The Discourse of Enactment, Transaction, Reaction, and
Resolution,’ November 7–10, 2006, convened at Northeastern Illinois
University, Chicago, by Dr. Larry Berlin. I am very grateful to Peter
Ives, John Richardson, Tove Skutnabb-Kangas, and Sohail Karmani for
insightful comments on a draft, and to Richard C. Smith for invaluable
historical research.
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